“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” – Rabindranath Tagore
Initially created for the 2020 Epic MegaJam with the theme ‘it’s been a long time, but we’re not done yet‘, Cloud Climber is a short narrative driven walking-simulator about what might happen in a world without water. Set a thousand years after the rain stops and after over a hundred years of construction, the player is one of the last remaining people alive with all hope resting on building higher into the clouds.
Developer: Two Star Games
Released: 14th January 2021
The game’s aesthetics are amongst its best features with relaxing audio and unique visuals. The sketchy hand-drawn artwork gives the game an original feel, accentuated by the well-designed and sombre colour palette of browns, blues and greys with a complimentary red for the banners adorning the stylised architecture. The lighting is particularly atmospheric and helps give a sense of scale to the environment and its wooden skyscrapers.
Cloud Climber has a lovely, delicate soundtrack featuring traditional oriental instruments and soft synths, the only downside is the consistency as the song remains the same throughout and does not build into any sort of crescendo to match the game’s climax. Likewise, the narration was calm, measured and almost apathetic. Both add to the relaxing nature of the game but are lacking the expected emotion for the situation.
Cloud Climber is quite minimal in terms of active gameplay and consists of traversing a series of towers whilst being drip-fed the history of the place via scattered diary pages from multiple people and the occasional bit of narration from the protagonist. There are also a couple of very basic puzzles or interactions such as repairing a bridge with easily found planks of wood; these present no challenge but help to connect the player to the experience.
Journal entries and soliloquies are tried and tested methods for delivering the story, it’s not ground-breaking narrative design but it works well for walking simulators and suits this short game perfectly. There are texts from a variety of tower inhabitants and the player can get a sense of the individuals and a hint of some of their stories which adds an extra dimension to the game world. This all leads to the finale which manages to impart a moral in keeping with the meditative styling and relaxing feel.
The moral undertone is one of the narrative’s redeeming features since Cloud Climber is not without flaws with certain aspects accumulating to make a pretty confusing experience overall. There are instances where narration and diary pages were inconsistent with other parts of the game or its store page descriptions. For example, we are told the rain stopped a thousand years ago, yet on page 9,825 of Bertha’s diary, found on the tower that is around one hundred years old, that her grandmother saw the rain!
The overarching narrative is intriguing on the surface but contradicts itself in a fundamental way. We are told that after the rain stopped all the earth’s water evaporated into the clouds and that towers to reach the clouds started being erected over one hundred years ago but this poses a plethora of questions, such as:
- If there are clouds, containing all the earth’s water no less, why has there been no rain for a millennium?
- Why did no one start building towers sooner?
- Where did the building supplies and water come from after nine hundred years of the earth slowly becoming one big barren desert?
- How did anyone survive so long, or at all?
These questions remain unanswered after playing Cloud Climber, adding a nonsensical aspect to the experience which in turn creates a disconnect with the other narrative elements and otherwise serious themes. This could be redeemed if there are plans to expand the game as any plausible explanation would be inherently interesting!
Cloud Climber presents players with a mixed bag with its appealing visuals, contemplative play style and unfortunate narrative disarray. It is an interesting concept with undeniably original aspects but the lack of perceivable logic behind the basic premise of the game is jarring and hard to overcome. It’s also worth noting the poor optimisation that resulted in the game using 40% capacity on a 3.8gHz Intel Core i5-7600 processor! All that being said, it was an impressive feat for one person to create the entire game within a week and it was a pleasant way to spend ten to fifteen minutes, especially for free!
Looking for more free games? Why not take a look at some of these!
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